"Judicial independence is defined as a pre-requisite to the rule of law and a fundamental guarantee of fair proceedings", observed Justice B. Pugalendhi on Thursday.
Setting aside the acquittal of the management of certain granite firms (in connection with their accusation for illegal quarrying of granite in Madurai worth crores of rupees) and remanding the matter for fresh trial, the Single Bench remarked that a Judge shall exercise the judicial function independently on the basis of the Judge's assessment of the facts and in accordance with a conscientious understanding of the law, free of any extraneous influences, inducements, pressures, threats or interference, direct or indirect, from any quarter or for any reason.
Not only were repeated requests for recusal of the Single Judge advanced on behalf of the respondents-accused in the instant case, but even after the matter was reserved for judgment, a complaint came to be filed before the Registrar (Judicial) reiterating that the Judge had appeared against their firms in more than 200 occasions in the court and continued to appear in those cases till his elevation to the bench in the High Court of Madras.
Moreover, the complaint alleged that the Judge in a public forum (Keren Public School, Madurai dated 08.02.2020) made shocking comments about Madurai granite quarrying operators, that in the said address, the Judge stated that his elevation to Judgeship was delayed by a period of 5 years due to granite lobby.
"Lord Krishna in Bhagavad Gita has reminded the importance of duty to Arjuna as "Do Your Duty, Don't Fret Over the Result". These words are not for Arjuna alone, but for the entire mankind. Almost all the religions emphasise the duty of individuals", the bench urged.
Justice Pugalendhi proceeded to observe that in discharging our duties, we face several difficulties, but unmindful to the same, we must do our duty with due diligence. "This is what I intended to convey in the speech made before the students. I just reminded the gathering about the duties of the Students, Teachers and Parents and requested them to realise their duty and to discharge their duty with their utmost ability and sincerity and only then, we can expect a better society", he commented, adding that his motivational speech given to the students has been doctored, by editing in such a way and projected as if this Court is against the respondents / accused,
He expressed regret that Nowadays, if anybody reminds of the duty, they are viewed differently- "As an individual person, everybody expects their servants to be loyal and sincere to them, but, at the same time, if the Government servant does his duty sincerely and diligently, it is viewed in a different manner, as a sin. This is how our values have evolved"
"I have not referred anything about these respondents / accused in that speech made in the school function and the speech has been edited in such a way and circulated to pressurize this Court to get away from these cases", he said.
Justice Pugalendhi continued to reflect that as a Judge, they are expected to be aloof from the society. But at times, on the request of some respectable persons, they accept certain invitations and "similarly I accepted and participated in that school annual day programme".
"In fact, initially I refused to accept the meeting, but, since the request was made from a respectable member from the BAR, I accepted to give a speech in the meeting and gave a motivational speech to the students of the school", explains Justice Pugalendhi in the judgment.
Justice Pugalendhi further stated that at the said function, the Principal while referring to his works in the introduction speech mentioned certain wrong particulars on the cases conducted by him and for correcting the same, he referred to the number of granite cases he had appeared before the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court in.
"As a Special Government Pleader and as an Additional Advocate General, I appeared in a number of Writ Petitions on granite issues before the Madurai Bench as well as before the Principal Seat at Madras. The Madurai District Administration has not only initiated action as against the firms of the respondents / accused, but against almost all lessees...To my remembrance, I did not appear in the criminal complaints filed by the District Collector (one of the petitioners before the High Court and the original complainant) before the learned Magistrate and on these appeals pending before this Court. I proceeded with this case only after ascertaining from the order sheet and after verifying with the respective Counsel to these cases that I never appeared in the present proceedings pending before this Court", the bench asserted.
He continued to proclaim that as a Special Government Pleader and as an Additional Advocate General, he has not only dealt with the cases on granite issues, but also dealt with the cases arising out of Garnet Quarry, Sand Quarry etc., and one way or the other, he would have appeared against almost all the mining lessees in the State of Tamil Nadu and therefore, on this ground, it is not proper to state that he should not discharge duty as a Judge on the Mines and Mineral issues.
'Advocates throwing mud on the Judge must realise they are attacking the Institution, and themselves'
The bench noted that the respondents / accused are enjoying the order of acquittal for three years, even without a trial and they may intend to retain this favourable order of acquittal for some more time.
"But the Advocates, being the Officers of the Court, owe certain duties not only to their clients, but also to the Court", the bench observed, adding that no party to a litigation may stoop to this extent, without the knowledge of his Advocate.
"The Advocates before throwing mud on the Judge, must realise that by doing so, they are attacking themselves and the Institution", said the Judge.
Justice Pugalendhi continued to remark that as a Judge and an Advocate, they command certain respect and privileges in the society and "the same are derived from this Institution and its judgments".
'Very few government servants working with honesty and integrity and even they are facing consequence for discharging their duties diligently'
Justice Pugalendhi recorded that by the order of March, 2016 (which was in appeal before the High Court), the Magistrate, dismissed the complaints filed by the District Collector, Madurai, for his non-appearance under Section 256 Cr.P.C. and acquitted the respondents / accused from the charges under Sections 4(1-A) r/w 21(1) of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957.
Apart from the aforesaid offence, the complaints were also filed to confiscate the multi-colour granite blocks seized from the respondent's / accused's land, and to dispose of the granite blocks as provided under Section 21(4-A) of the 1957 Act. Aggrieved over the same, the State had preferred the criminal appeals.
Further, while dismissing the complaints, the Magistrate has also made certain observations that Anshul Mishra, I.A.S., the then District Collector, Madurai, has filed the complaints in his official capacity as District Collector, Madurai, but, as on the date of lodging of the complaint, he was not the District Collector, Madurai and thereby, slapped him with charges of perjury alleging commission of the offence under Sections 181, 182, 193 & 199 IPC. The Magistrate further observed that the Special Public Prosecutors have also aided the complainant in the said offence and therefore, directed the Head Clerk to lodge a complaint under Section 197(1b) Cr.P.C., after getting appropriate orders from the Government
"Honesty and integrity have become rare qualities nowadays. Most of the Government servants lose their sincerity, since their salary is assured, even if they do not work. At present, very few officials are working with honesty, integrity and sincerity and even those officers are afraid of the consequences and avoid their duties", the bench reflected.
Appreciating that this is the first complaint filed for confiscation of the vehicle as mandated under the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, the Single Judge observed that most of the District Collectors have not acted in accordance with the Statute and the Governments are not serious in enforcing the provisions of the Act.
"Natural resources are the gift of nature given to the entire mankind. In order to protect the environment, the Government has enacted several laws, like the Environmental Protection Act, the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, etc., and established a Green Tribunal. But, without implementing the law in its stricto sensu, the desired object cannot be achieved", he iterated.
The Single Bench appreciated that the object for which the amendments were made in the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, by introducing the provisions under Sections 4(1A), 21, 21(4A) and 23(C) by Act 38 of 1999 is only to curb the rampant illegal mining activities. It is for this object, the Tanton Committee was constituted and it also made its recommendations and based on those recommendations, the above provisions were introduced in the year 1999. Even though these provisions came into effect from the year 1999, it appears, not even a single vehicle has been confiscated, so far.
"Even this first complaint filed by the District Collector is facing these consequences and a fitting reply was given to him for having discharged his duty. Allowing these type of orders to survive even for a minute would demoralise the sincere officers", said Justice Pugalendhi, expunging the aforesaid adverse observations made by the Magistrate against the Collector.
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